THE DIASPORA STORY: The Epic of the Jewish People Among the Nations by Joan Comay

THE DIASPORA STORY: The Epic of the Jewish People Among the Nations

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A problematic pictorial introduction to the Diaspora history of the Jewish people--""based on the permanent exhibits in . . . The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv."" (And that may be the rub.) The book is divided, to its disadvantage, into two parts. Part One, ""The Inner World of the Diaspora,"" takes up such topics as Jewish family life, communal institutions, festivals, religious culture, etc.; Part Two, ""Jews Among the Nations,"" is a chronological survey of Jewish history from King Solomon's death, in 922 B.C., to the current Jewish exodus from the Soviet Union. What is lost by this particular division is the opportunity to present the development of Diaspora life within a historical context; what is gained is chiefly repetition. Still more questionable is Part One, Chapter One; ""Faces""--which opens (in a chillingly accurate echo of Nazi terminology) with the statement that ""The great diversity of Jewish facial characteristics is confirmed by modern scientific surveys""; and proceeds to elaborate on same. The book is both defensive, then, and celebratory. ""The most important instrument of survival,"" we're told, ""was the Book that the wandering Jew carried in his knapsack."" And while Jewish survival is vaunted, we hear nothing of the difficulties of adapting. The pogroms are duly noted, but not the rigors of life within the shtetls. At best the book is bland; at worst, distasteful.

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 1981
Publisher: Random House